Making BIM more easily understood: Maria Lennox, Simplebim

Maria Lennox of Simplebim
Simplebim wants to make BIM more easily understood. The BIM tech business is possibly not a name on the tip of your tongue, but it was involved in Laing O’Rourke’s cutting edge digital processes on the Hinkley Point C project.

Here, we talk to Maria Lennox, who joined Simplebim earlier this year as head of BIM services. With significant stints at two of the top Nordic construction companies, NCC and SRV, her switch to Simplebim represents something of a poacher turned gamekeeper – or vice versa – moment.

BIMplus: Tell us about Simplebim, what does it do and who uses it?

Maria Lennox Simplebim is a software product that transforms BIM data, making it unified, consistent and enriched so that it’s fit for purpose.

Our customers typically come to us struggling with, or even frustrated by, BIM data, because they don’t know how to get the value out of it.

The software can not only be used by BIM specialists, architects, and designers. It can also be used by quantity surveyors, site surveyors or even energy analysts.

We currently have 5,000 users in 40 countries using the tool.

What attracted you to the new role at Simplebim?

The possibility to develop my skills in BIM in cooperation with different companies here in Finland and also internationally.

What does the role involve and what are the main challenges?

I’ve developed a BIM service hub to provide hands-on support for Simplebim customers.

We help customers, for example, by checking the quality of the data in their models, improving the usability of their models, as well as customising them (e.g. adding locations, quantities, customer-specific classifications and data, generation of new objects).

By standardising and enriching our customers’ BIM data, we help to make it more accessible so it can be used in traditional 3D tools as well as for analysing plans and operations in a database format (standardised rule-based analysis, simulations, version comparisons, etc).

Because this technology is so new, it’s hard to communicate all the advantages of standardising and enriching BIM data as well as demonstrating all the possibilities of how to analyse and use it. Yet, when the penny drops, our customers have an ‘ah-ha’ moment.

How does having worked for two major construction companies help you in your role?

I spent more than 15 years working within two of the top Nordic construction companies, NCC and SRV. I developed BIM use cases, training colleagues how to use and get the benefit from BIM. I worked with many kinds of customers, projects, designers, personnel, and models.

So, my background enables me to understand our customers processes, the different roles in their company, the different use cases, their problems. And most of all, ‘project reality’.

As I’ve been involved in a lot of projects, I can communicate with our customers and understand their workflows and what their needs are.

What are the challenges of using BIM in the industry?

The biggest obstacle inside construction companies is people do know what BIM is, and they think it’s important. But they don’t know how to use it in their everyday work.

It’s considered a dark art because the topics, language, and things we do are thought of as a side project, because it’s not the main thing that construction companies do.

What I do is somewhere between IT, data analysis, design work, project management and 3D. It’s not mainstream construction work and that’s one of the challenges we’re trying to tackle here at Simplebim.

We want to make BIM more commonly understood, used and easy to take advantage of. Our aim is to break down all the barriers between the construction company employees and BIM and BIM data.

Which technology in BIM and digital construction (aside from Simplebim) interests you the most?

Number one is data. Data analysis and data-driven project management, and all the possibilities it brings. Not just BIM data, but data from different sources such as cost estimating and procurement.

What I’m really passionate about, and what isn’t being done properly by many construction companies yet, is bringing data from different systems, combining it with IFC data and analysing it through BIM-data glasses.

There are hundreds of new ways you can group, filter, and see the model and the data in the model. On top of that, being able to connect and see that same IFC in 3D or in Power BI as data.

Once you standardise and enrich BIM data, say with locations, installation classifications, and estimated installation times, you can use it in Power BI to see, for example, how much time it will take to install flat by flat, room by room, without needing to ask any of this information from the designer or the engineer. It’s all derived from post-edited/added information.

What single thing would help accelerate construction’s digital adoption?

From my perspective, using BIM data, together with all other data sources, will help accelerate digital adoption in construction. It’s our job to make it as easy as possible to for customers to access BIM data to use in their everyday work.

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